Have yourself a home-spun Christmas

Small gifts: Advent calender by Neptune featuring small  presents suspended from a branch.
Arts and Crafts Christmas style, with a little help from the experts

“People have gone mad doing up their homes,” says Gabriel Byrne of Fantasy Lights, where sales of outdoor festive lighting is already up 25 per cent. He has sold kilometres of icicle and garland string lights that will outline houses and gardens and change shade from warm white to multicolour at the flick of a remote control. “This over-the-top decorating territory is something a lot of people normally avoid,” he says, attributing the sudden shift to people seeking out an antidote to the gloom of the year gone by.

While outdoor lighting may be rainbow coloured, the palette inside is definitely more muted, says chalk paint expert Annie Sloan. “People have more time this year to make and do,” she says. “And the results are more pared back.”

Annie Sloan and her potato printed table runner made using Chalk Paint
Annie Sloan and her potato printed table runner made using Chalk Paint

This artisan approach starts in her hallway, a space painted in festive reds – Primer red on the period panelling and Emperor’s Silk painted as a runner on the floor. Large simple wreaths are made from willow and wrapped in eucalyptus and hung with thick red ribbon, while thick bushels of red Hypericum berries drip down towards the floor. It is a lush look that will also smell gorgeous.

Any decent-sized stairs will need two or three garlands to fill the banisters all the way up to the landing, says Erika O’Keefe, head Christmas buyer at The Orchard, Celbridge. She likes to use connectable, pre-lit garlands that allow for up to 10 lengths from a single plug, reducing the need for hazardous extension cables.

Annie Sloan’s festive hallway: Primer red on the panelling and Emperor’s Silk painted as a runner on the floor. Large willow wreaths are wrapped in eucalyptus and hung with thick red ribbon while red Hypericum berries drip down towards the floor.
Annie Sloan’s festive hallway: Primer red on the panelling and Emperor’s Silk painted as a runner on the floor. Large willow wreaths are wrapped in eucalyptus and hung with thick red ribbon while red Hypericum berries drip down towards the floor.

Florist Mark Grehan of Powerscourt Townhouse-based The Garden says people are making an extra effort this year to make their homes special. “It’s important for themselves and possibly also for family members – those that won’t get home.”

Florist Mark Grehan of Powerscourt Townhouse-based The Garden desgined this floral table scape.
Florist Mark Grehan of Powerscourt Townhouse-based The Garden desgined this floral table scape.

His main focal point is the mantelpiece. “Decoration is a lot more natural this year. We’ve all spent a lot of time outdoors and are more appreciative of nature, so weave fragrant elements like noble fir, eucalyptus and holly into a mantle garland. Leave some space for a pillar candle or two.

If you prefer an artificial Christmas tree – Arnotts is selling what it calls cashmere-effect trees that range from €200 upwards – Grehan suggests weaving some natural branches through it to get that lovely Christmas smell. Your local real Christmas tree supplier will have cut-offs.

Whether real or faux you can update the look of tired baubles with a fresh coat of paint. Sloan says people use her chalk paint tester pots to refresh baubles but she prefers painting laser-cut mini wooden forms that you can buy from Baker Ross for €3.95 for a pack of 45.

Sloan is also encouraging her grandchildren, Frankie (2), and Rudy (4), to potato print a cloth for the table on Christmas Day. Her paint works really well on fabric. “Potatoes can be used to make circle, flower or even tree motifs,” she says. She suggests making wrapping paper using the same technique on paper or painting simple forms on to foraged bay leaves threaded with twine as a mantel garland. She plans to supervise her grandchildren’s progress from a safe distance, the gate of their front garden. We can follow her instructive how-to videos on her Facebook page.

Annie Sloan’s simple garland – foraged bay leaves dipped in paint and threaded with twine as a mantle garland.
Annie Sloan’s simple garland – foraged bay leaves dipped in paint and threaded with twine as a mantle garland.

There are any number of excellent DIY decoration ideas that can be accessed on digital platforms, but before you start there are a couple of essential purchases you’ll need, says interiors expert Orla Neligan, who is also a stylist for the Woodies chain.

“A glue gun will make life easy. So will C-screws and invisible hooks.” A pair of C-hooks screwed into the ceiling or affixed to an existing pendant light can be used to suspend a branch the length of a dining table. This will work as a base from which to drape fashionable dried, foraged or artificial foliage, as per The Blue Door’s dried grasses idea, pictured. “Before you buy be sure to check what weight the hooks you’re buying can hold,” she advises.

The Blue Door’s dried grasses table design
The Blue Door’s dried grasses table design

A really smart hall or living room feature could be this advent calender by Neptune featuring small tastefully wrapped presents suspended from a branch. This will work best if the presents are kept light enough to hang in this way.

Small gifts: Advent calender by Neptune featuring small presents suspended from a branch.
Small gifts: Advent calender by Neptune featuring small presents suspended from a branch.

If you plan to go all out, consider the lesser rooms in your home too, Neligan says. Strings of copper lights or any form of battery-operated strings in mason jars or a glass vase will bring a sense of the season to a guest toilet. A bowl filled with baubles could form part of a dining table or hall table centrepiece. Individual baubles hung on lengths of ribbons can look effective when dropped at different lengths within window frames.

Neon tube-effect lights by Hay, €50 each, from Inreda Design Shop
Neon tube-effect lights by Hay, €50 each, from Inreda Design Shop

For a gift that’s guaranteed to delight the TikTok generation, an Rgb LED tape light with flashing sensor light, like in an old school disco, will transform bedrooms to nightclub mode at the flick of a switch. Completely sold out at Fantasy Lights, you can get similar – minus the sound sensor – with colour-changing strip lights from Woodies for €39.99. Neon tube-effect lights by Hay, €50 each, from Inreda Design Shop are another option.

Grown-ups can get in on the act with a fauve bedroom set up like this Blissford four-poster, €542, from Argos. It comes in a white or pine finish and could be painted any colour creating the perfect base on which to wind lights and faux or real foliage. A sprig of strategically suspended mistletoe might even deliver some well-earned Christmas kisses.

woodies.ie; fantasylights.com; theorchard.ie; neptune.com; inredadesignshop.com; argos.ie

Wreath havoc

Deirdre Sullivan of Kay’s Flower School in Dublin with one of her wreaths
Deirdre Sullivan of Kay’s Flower School in Dublin with one of her wreaths

Traditionally the wreath is hung on the front door on December 8th to herald the festive season, says Deirdre Sullivan who runs second-generation Kay’s Flower School on Dublin’s South Circular Road with her sister Jeanette O’Rourke. Their remote wreath-building class costs €75 (plus post & packaging). A box delivered to your door beforehand includes all you need to create a wreath including a wreath base, spruce branches, pine cones, dried citrus fruits and apple slices as well as baubles, artificial leaves and foliage and ribbon. Smelling like Christmas in a box, it contains all the inspiration you – and excited children keen to be involved – will need to get started.

Or you could just improvise, says Sullivan: “You can forage for pine cones, ask your local live Christmas tree supplier for cut-off branches and even cut up an old plaid shirt or pair of pyjamas to make the ribbon. But if you’re thinking about gathering moss from the garden as a base be mindful that it will need time to dry out, preferably somewhere away from the house to allow the eviction of all sorts of creepy crawlies outside your home.”

Dry citrus fruits by simply cutting them into slices and drying in the oven at a low temperature for about six hours. But any good florist will sell ready-made versions, as do many of the Polish shops, where you may also find value-sized containers of cinnamon and star anise, spices that are great for threading together into a wreath, a garland and even the tree.

She advises working in an uncarpeted area as pine needles will go everywhere and are hell to remove from carpet.

Included with the box is a link to a Zoom class and online tutorials where you can practice your craft as often as you like before the live events which take place on December 3rd and 4th.

flowerschoolireland.com/holly-wreath-workshop.php

Make it a wrap

Crafty wrap: Annie Sloan’s potato print wrapping paper.
Crafty wrap: Annie Sloan’s potato print wrapping paper.

Orange and blue potato-print gift wrap in Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan in Barcelona Orange, Primer Red, English Yellow and Napoleonic Blue.

anniesloan.com

Trees with attitude

Denise Walsh of Rustiq salons in Carlow and Kilkenny dressed this tree for neighbouring business Arboretum
Denise Walsh of Rustiq salons in Carlow and Kilkenny dressed this tree for neighbouring business Arboretum

A fan of Christmas movie franchise Home Alone, hair salon owner turned influencer Denise Walsh of Rustiq salons in Carlow and Kilkenny recently took inspiration from the film’s over-the-top-décor to dress a tree for neighbouring business Arboretum, layering it by putting the lights on first and then adding large felted red and white accents.

“Everything in the film is now back in fashion and takes you back to your childhood. That’s a feeling that you want to recall every year.”

@rustiqdenise; arboretum.ie